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ACCC calls for feedback on proposed NBN changes


 AUSTRALIA’S consumer watchdog is looking for industry and stakeholder feedback on proposed changes to the National Broadband Network’s special access undertaking agreement.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) published a consultation paper on Wednesday inviting submissions on NBN Co’s proposed variation to the governing document.

The SAU agreement is a key part of the regulatory framework that governs the conditions by which the company provides services over the NBN to retailers, including price.

The major change included in the proposal to alter the SAU revolves around the technologies used in the NBN.

The company is asking to incorporate fibre-to-the-node (FTTN), fibre-to-the-basement (FTTB) and hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) technologies into the SAU, as well as expanding the service description to reflect additional technologies.

The SAU took nearly two years to be initially agreed upon in 2013 and is in place until 2040.

“Changes to the Special Access Undertaking are needed to accommodate services under the multi-technology NBN model,” ACCC commissioner Roger Featherston said.

“We want to be sure the commitments in the undertaking continue to promote competition in NBN markets and remain in the long-term interests of consumers.”

In May the NBN first lodged a proposal with the ACCC to change the agreement.

Among the other changes requested by NBN Co. include changing the language so the company no longer had to publish quarterly updates on its one-year construction plan. It also sought to make its annual three-year construction plan update available only to internet service providers and not the public.

NBN claimed the updates were “redundant” because the company was releasing monthly information pertaining to areas that were ready for service.

But the public response to the proposed changes prompted NBN’s general manager of corporate affairs, Karina Keisler, to mock what she referred to as the NBN “fanbois” on Twitter — stirring up more controversy.

The NBN says the changes to the agreement are necessary for the future shape of the infrastructure project.

“None of the changes which NBN proposes alter the underlying regulatory principles, structure, and incentives embedded in the SAU, which the ACCC has previously accepted as being reasonable, including being in the long-term interests of end users,” NBN said in its supporting submission.

The publication of the consultation paper by the ACCC comes a day after NBN executive general manager for product and pricing outlined the company’s technology road map for the future of the project.

“We’ve got a road map that we’ve talked about for a number of years for the technologies themselves,” said Sarah Palmer at the CommsDay Datacentre and Wholesale Summit on Tuesday.

Included in the road map was a path to upgrade FTTN connections with fibre to the distribution point.

The ACCC will receive comments from stakeholders until August 26 when considering the proposed changes to the SAU.